My Pantene Commercial: Behind the Scenes (Part One)

I thought I would give you a little behind the scenes look at my shoot for this Pantene commercial. (Except by no means is it going to be a “little” look, as I’ve been waiting 5 months to tell this story! Not going to spare a detail.)

The shoot consisted of two days. The first day was the fitting/styling day, followed by the actual shoot on the next day. I thought we’d ease into this series with a post about the first day. I managed to grab a few shots with my iPhone, so here we go!

The shoot was located at Sony Studios in Los Angeles. (Right across from the Jeopardy sound stage – yoohooo, Alex Trebek! Over heeeere!)

The driver dropped me off in front of Stage 9, and first things first, if you haven’t seen a studio lot, it’s pretty intimidating. Huge warehouse-sized buildings, lots of alleys, people with headsets and clipboards whizzing around on carts…the best way to explain it would be that quintessential scene when the naive girl steps off a bus in a totally new city. There I stood, in the middle of the lot, overnight bag at my feet, wondering where I was supposed to go. I decided to peek behind the Stage 9 doors, and saw this.

Tons of people working like mad scientists in a 12,000 sq. ft. sound stage. Gulp.

I was then ushered over to the wardrobe room, and this is what I saw.

Pretty much my idea of heaven on earth. You all know I like to shop, and all of those racks of clothing were for me to try on. Not to mention the seamstress sitting in the corner, ready to tailor any item that might not fit perfectly. I was beginning to like this whole commercial thing…that was, until I realized what a fitting entails. Giggling with girlfriends while trying on the latest fashions? Um, no. Try standing in outfit after outfit while the director, the ad agency team, and the stylists all stare at you, seated with arms crossed, while quietly remarking to each other why they think this or that outfit is just NOT working. “Could you stand up? Lean against the wall? Sit down?” I remember at one point, the director asked me to “do what a blogger does,” so I just stuck my fingers out and pretended to type? YOU GUYS, good times.

(For the record, everyone I dealt with during the shoot was really lovely. Thanking my lucky stars on that one.)

A few hours later, the hairstylist (will you please look at her resume?) showed up to assess my hair for the shoot. I LOVED her. Serena has worked on most of Pantene’s campaigns, so I felt pretty honored, to say the least. What is involved in a hair assessment for a hair commercial, you ask? A lot of combing with a fine-tooth comb, people. Lots of combing. Combing and assessing, combing, and assessing. Usually, at this point, the hairstylist would touch up roots or refresh the hair color or trim, but since I don’t color my hair, she just put a quick glossing treatment on it. (A glossing treatment is like temporary hair color, without the pigment.)

Now, is this the face of a Pantene commercial or what? JAZZ HANDS.

After she shampooed and conditioned my hair, I endured the longest, most detailed blowout of my life, and was sent back to the hotel to get some rest for the big shoot the next morning. Call time? 5:45 am. Who wants to guess how much sleep I got that night? (Hint – it was NOT A LOT.)

I woke up the morning of the shoot around 5:00 am. Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say that I got out of bed at 5:00 am. After getting a taste of the size and scope of the commercial the day before, my nerves got the best of me overnight. I did fall asleep at some point in the wee hours of the morning, only to be jolted awake by a nightmare that I had missed my call time. Thanks, REM, I appreciate it.

The driver picked me up at 5:45 am, and I was on my way to the shoot. First up, hair and makeup with Serena and Francesca. (Francesca is just Beyonce’s personal makeup artist. NO BIGGIE.)

As you can see, the sun was just coming up. (Hello across the way, Alex!) Serena looked over my hair and started to smooth out any slept-on action. (For those of you who asked in the last post, yes, my hair was blown out the day before and not washed again on the day of the shoot.) And this is why Serena gets paid the big bucks…perfectly smooth hair.

We had a super full day, starting with the famous Pantene hair swish. This made me tremendously happy because a) DUH, I was going to do the Pantene swish, and b) it would give me some time to acclimate to the set and crew before we filmed my speaking parts.

Now, I had received the call sheet the day before, so I knew that there would be approximately 80 people working at the shoot, but I can’t even adequately express to you all just how much time and effort and manpower is involved in shooting a national commercial. I would be lying to you if I said my adrenaline wasn’t pumping at 1,000 percent that morning. I was the “talent” (never thought I’d see THAT next to my name on a call sheet), and the pressure was on.

The sound stage was enormous.

I couldn’t have dreamed up a better set for “my bedroom.”

The details of the shoot were so intricate and beautiful. (Like I said, SO much effort and creativity put into every step.)

Then there were the people.

ALL OF THE PEOPLE. The People who were watching My Every Move. The director, the producers, the camera department, the lighting crew, grips, art department, A/V, the advertising execs, the client…like I said, NO PRESSURE.

(I loved every single moment, though. My parents have said it for decades…I live for pressure situations. I’m weird like that.)

The director of the shoot was Tryan George (seen here in the top hat because well, DUH), and the director of photography (standing behind) was Pieter Vermeer. You should totally check out the links of their work. Impressive stuff…

(Just between you and me, and since I am 99.99% percent sure I’ll never see him again, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Pieter was not so bad to look at…nope not at all, that Pieter. One hell of a scruffy looker, if you ask me.)

One thing I learned rather quickly in regards to shooting a commercial is that lots of people get all up in your personal space, but they don’t want to talk to you. This seemed a little odd at first (Hey! Are you trying to make out with me? No? Okay then…), but I quickly realized they just need to execute their job, whether it be apply more lip gloss, fix and errant strand of hair, or test the lighting. So don’t try to be polite and make chitchat, people. Zip it.

See? Not talking, just standing still while the nice man cups his hand next to my head. Trés professional.

Y’all, the time had come. It was Swish Time.

I’ll be back next week with a lot more of this.

Part Two here.

  1. kat

    March 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    i LOVE the behind the scenes stuff. and i love how real you’re keeping it too. i hope you talk about if you had to practice turning around so that they can do the big hair sweep. that’s my favorite part of the commercial.

  2. Valerie

    March 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I love hearing all the details!! I want to know more about that blowout…did you get any good tips?

  3. Amy

    March 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    wait just a second..you slept on your hair after a blow out? or attempted to sleep! i hope they did it all over again.

  4. Jen [Tiny Oranges]

    March 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    I can’t believe you got ANY sleep at all that night! LOVE these details – hanging on my seat waiting for Part II!!! In the meantime, I will do what a blogger does…


  5. amy lewis wright

    March 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    I love love love the behind-the-scenes details. I can’t wait to hear about part 2, 3, etc…keep ’em comin’ girl!

  6. Jen [Tiny Oranges]

    March 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    …and excuse me for the second comment but I just finally tried adding a Gravatar and want to see if it worked!!

  7. Lindsay

    March 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    What? They blew out your hair the day *before* the commercial? Consider me intrigued. Also, I’m loving this behind the scenes post. And I agree with Kat – you MUST tell us about practicing the hair sweep! :)

  8. Melissa

    March 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    So fun! I love to read “behind the scenes” accounts!

  9. Adventures In Babywearing

    March 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Oh my goodness. LOVE it. So, did you have to go back to the hotel wearing the cap? How did you not mess up your blow out???


  10. Sarah

    March 6, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Steph – Actually the cap was when I had the glossing treatment on. The blow out happened afterwards, so my hair was down when I went back to the hotel. As for the blow out…duh duh dunnnnn, more coming next week! ;)

  11. Sarah

    March 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I’m so excited you all like the behind the scenes stuff! I’ve been dying to tell the story…hang tight until next week!!

  12. Amti'b

    March 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm


  13. Lini

    March 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Can’t wait for the rest!

  14. Donna

    March 8, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Did they actually use the aqua light product I wash your hair prior to styling and filming?

  15. Sarah

    March 9, 2012 at 11:27 am


    Great question. And, uhhhh, I’m not sure? My head was completely submerged in one of those hair-washing sinks and I couldn’t see…however, I had been using Aqua Light for weeks leading up to the shoot.